James Signs Deal to Promote Sprite, Powerade

LOS ANGELES Coca-Cola has signed NBA rookie LeBron James to promote its Sprite and Powerade brands, the company said.

Terms of the six-year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers’ player were not disclosed. The agreement includes advertising, promotions and personal appearances for both brands.

James will serve as the principal spokesperson for Sprite’s “Obey your thirst” campaign, according to a statement issued by Coca-Cola. Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, recently accused of sexually assaulting a Colorado woman, had been featured in recent ads for the brand. The client has said those executions have completed their media run.

“LeBron has not only achieved his NBA dream quickly, but he has done it on his own terms,” said Jeff Dunn, president of Coca-Cola North America, in a statement. “Quite simply, he personifies the Sprite brand.” Client executives did not return calls.

WPP Group’s Ogilvy & Mather in New York handles advertising for Sprite, although the client has asked other shops to pitch ideas. In addition to Ogilvy, agencies that have presented ideas are independents DiNoto in New York, WongDoody in Seattle, Modernista! in Boston and Wieden + Kennedy in Portland, Ore., as well as Publicis Groupe’s Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, which made a late entry into the process, sources said.

Wieden handles advertising for the Powerade brand.

Agency executives could not immediately be reached.

James also has a $90 million contract with Nike and a $6 million contract with Upper Deck trading cards.